Monday, June 28, 2010

Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

One of my favorite types of cooking has always been making fresh bread.  Any type of bread will do.  I love the smell of yeast and rising dough.  I can still remember cutting out a section of one of my mom's magazines that covered the making of simple breads.  The same basic recipe but different variations. 

In the beginning I used to knead the dough by hand and there was something satisfying to hold the dough in my hands and work it.  But as the years went on (and the fact I bought a Kitchen-Aid) I started to do the kneading using the machine.  Nevertheless, I still love making bread. 

Though this process takes many hours to complete, the end results are WELL worth it.  I would highly recommend at least trying to make bread just once, you won't be sorry!

Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour; plus 1/3 cup for adding during mixing
3/8 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons room temperature water
3/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil; divided
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary; chopped
6 cloves garlic; peeled and halved
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel (or sea salt)

1.  Mix the dough:  In the mixer bowl, with the paddle attachment on low speed, combine the flour and yeast. With the mixer running, gradually add the water, mixing just until the dough comes together, about 3 minutes.  It will be very soupy.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough is transformed into a smooth, shiny ball, about 20 minutes.  If after 20 minutes the dough is still a bit wet, you will need to add additional flour slowly until dough starts to come together and pull away fromt the side of the bowl.  Ad the sugar and salt and beat until they are well incorporated, about 3 minutes.
2.  Let the dough rise: Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 1-1/2 quart bowl, lightlygreased with cooking spray or oil.  The dough will look like melted mozzarella.  Lightly spray or oil the top of the dough.  Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap.  With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where doubled the height of the dough would be.  Allow the dough to rise at about 80F for about 4 hours or until it has at least doubled.
3. Shape the dough and let it rise: Coat the sheet pan with a heaping tablespoon of the olive il.  Pour the dough onto it - it will be thin enough to pour but very stretchy.  Coat your hands with a little of the remaining olive oil and spread the dough as thin as possible without tearing it. Let it relax for 10 minutes, then spread it to almost fill the entire sheet, trying to maintain the bubbles in the dough.  If the dough is still very elastic and resists stretching, allow it to rest for anouth 10 minutes.  Cover the pan with a large plastic box or greased plastic wrap and allow to rise until one and a half times it original volume, about 1 hour.
4.  Preheat the oven:  Preheat the oven to 475F for 1 hour before baking.  Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.
5.  Sprinkle on the toppings and bake the focaccia: Uncover  the dough and drizle the remaining olive oil evenly over it.  Sprinkle evenly with the rosemary.  Scatter the garlic by tucking it into the dough.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place the pan directly on the hot stone or hot baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the top is golden.  Remove from the oven and drizzle with extra olive oil, if desired.

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